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Archive for March, 2013

These are a few of my favorite things: #25 – Paul O’Connor

As a weaver and fiber artist, my life has been touched in many ways by other weavers.  The most exceptional have inspired my work and compelled me into unfamiliar territories.  When the journey concludes, I can look back and revel in the experience knowing my life and work will never be the same.  One of the most influential weavers I’ve ever met is Paul O’Connor, who is sometimes referred to as the father of double weave.  Paul didn’t invent double weave (cloths woven with multiple layers).  What Paul did was advance the use of double weave in ways we hadn’t seen before and inspire new generations of weavers to pursue this rather ominous topic.  He also left behind many web-based resources for those interested in learning more (see below).

Examples of Paul's double weave

Examples of Paul’s double weave

Last week, Paul passed away.  As painful as this news was to hear, I know I can celebrate his life and help carry his work forward to other weavers.  Paul was extremely generous with his knowledge and produced numerous publications to assist weavers learn about double weave.

Paul’s work was significant to my master weaver study on loom-controlled stitched double cloth (a subset of double weave).  While working on this study, Paul was one of the few people that could keep up with my ramblings about how I was pushing this weave structure to achieve different effects.  While in Boulder, CO in 2004, I’ll never forget how patient he was as I chatted away about a project I had in mind . . . tubular stitched double cloth (a tube woven within a tube and the two tubes would be connected together during the weaving process).  As I described what I was planning to do, Paul listened intently.  I was hoping he could point out flaws in my plan and where I may go wrong.  Instead Paul replied with enthusiasm for my project and told me he had never seen anything like I described.  He also went on to mention a critical component . . . this was not a double weave . . . it was a quadruple weave (four layers of cloth woven simultaneously on the loom).  That comment helped me finish wrapping my head around what has been my biggest weaving-related mind bender.

Two years later I was able to share the results of my tubular stitched double cloth with Paul.  The image below is a look through the muff.  The red inside tube is a cashmere-blend.  The gray outside tube is rayon.  After weaving, the muff was wet-finished and the inside tube shrank and felted, which caused the outside tube to pucker and create a dimensional cloqué effect (this was the plan).  I was thrilled when I showed the project to Paul and he got excited with the results . . . so excited that he asked to borrow it to show others . . . in particular his wife.


Tubular stitched double cloth, by Robyn Spady

Since my completion of the tubular stitched double cloth project, I crossed paths with Paul many times.  I even managed to acquire two artifacts of his.  The first one is a double weave woven by Paul titled Lines II.  This was woven with sewing thread and is an item which he kindly donated to an auction after his retrospective exhibit at CW Seminars 2006 in Holland, MI.  I was fiercely committed to purchasing this piece and I appreciate that others didn’t take advantage of my enthusiasm and bid it up with the sole objective of making me pay through the nose for it . . . although, Paul was stunned by how much I ended up paying for this piece.  This double weave became a cornerstone for the first article I ever wrote for Handwoven magazine,  A Tale of Two Weavings.  Today, it is proudly displayed in my office.

Lines II by Paul O'Connor

Lines II, by Paul O’Connor

Another artifact I own is Paul’s baseball hat.  Anyone that has been around weaving for a while may have seen Paul wearing his Eager Weaver baseball hat.  At a conference, he was persuaded to donate the hat to the auction to raise money . . . and thank goodness someone told him to autograph it.  I ultimately ended up bidding against Bob Keats (aka Fiberworks Bob).  Once again, I prevailed and came home the proud owner of Paul’s Eager Weaver baseball hat (never underestimate my determination to achieve a goal), which has a place of honor on the wall in my studio.

Paul's hat

I will miss Paul.  He was a brilliant weaver and a kind man.  His legacy will live through the lives of those he touched and his generosity with his knowledge and experience.

To appreciate Paul’s work, check out the 128-page catalog from his 2006 retrospective exhibit

Double Weave; A Retrospective, 2006 – http://handweaving.net/DAItemDetail.aspx?ItemID=7897

Also, check out some of Paul’s web-based resources on double weave

Reference Guide for Double Weavehttp://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_rgdw.pdf

Double Weave Workshop Notes: Taking the Mystery out of Double Weave Tieups – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_tie.pdf

Double Weave Workshop Notes: Double Weave with a Four-Shaft Loomhttp://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_4s.pdf

Double Weave Workshop Notes: Double Weave with a Eight-Shaft Loom – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_8s.pdf

Double Weave Workshop Notes: Basket Weaves in Double Weave – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/topic_doubleweave.html

Double Weave Workshop Notes: Twill Weaves in Double Weave – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_twil.pdf

Network Drafting for Double Weave – http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/webdocs/opr_nddw.pdf

These are a few of my favorite things: #24 – Tessellations

I am fascinated by men’s silk ties.  Unfortunately, the number of men wearing ties continues to decline . .  . however, there are still some men out there wearing ties and I salute each and every one of them.  On more than one occasion I’ve asked a complete stranger if I could take a closer look at his tie.  I’ve even photographed a few.  Hey, when this gal’s on a layover in an airport, I start watching people and have sought out many of them to study what they were wearing.  Okay, I admit it . . . I’m a textile and fashion stalker!  I suppose this means naked people hold less fascination for me compared with the folks garbed in a unique textile.

What do I find so fascinating about men’s ties? (No, not the ones from the leisure suit era).  Many of them are exceptional works of art.  First, the silk fabric is often of the highest quality and the hand-sewn craftsmanship is inspiring . . . but, better than that are the designs that go into the weaving of the fabric, the print design on the fabric, or both.

The design complexity of a man’s tie should be appreciated since many of the design elements are layered producing subtle patterns of distinction.  The actual pattern itself may be elusive because of its scale, complexity, or both . . . which means one must take a little time using good light to appreciate some of these works of art.

Yes, men’s ties are some of my favorite things to play around with . . . however, that’s not what this latest “favorite things” is about.  What sparked my desire to rave about men’s silk ties and how inspiring they can be is the fact that many are excellent examples of a tessellation.

A tessellation is the repetition of a geometric shape with no overlaps and no gaps.  Escher was a master of designing tessellations as evidenced by a couple of examples of his work below.

The first example of an Escher tessellation shows the repeat of the fish pattern shown in the lower right hand corner.

Escher fish tesselation

The next two show different images . . . the first is the seahorse tessellation . . . followed by the Pegasus tessellation

Escher's seahorse tesselations

Escher Pegasus tesselation

The repeat of a geometric shape may also be observed in men’s ties



Fat cat spirals


Devils . . . One thing I love about this tie is that the devils are naked.  Thousands of people could look at this tie and only see some sort of yellow and red pattern and completely miss how provocative it is.  Art work in men’s ties takes a lot of artistic license.


Web-based Resources 

If you’re interested in learning more about tessellations, there are a number of resources available on-line you may enjoy using.  Below are my favorite four web-based tessellation generation websites.

http://www.Tessellations.org – This website has some wonderful examples of tessellations.  Best of all, there are a dozen lessons on how to make your own tessellations.  The image below shows the first four steps of the paper cut technique.

First 4 steps to making a tessellation

http://gwydir.demon.co.uk/jo/tess/index.htm – This website has some fun tools to use to create your own tessellations . . . but, I warn you . . . there is one area showing optical illusions using tessellations and it can make one a little dizzy to look at them.

Tessellations website

http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/math/games/first-second-grade/tessellation/ – The PBS website has a tool for showing how a tessellation can be developed.  It’s really designed for children . . . but, I have absolutely no problem getting in touch with my inner child.

PBS tessellation tool

http://www.shodor.org/interactivate/activities/Tessellate/ – This is another fun tool for designing simple tessellations.  Below is a tessellation I developed with a couple of mouse clicks.


Now, you may be asking how tessellations fit into weaving.  Well, did you know that many of our patterns are tessellations?  The most common are perhaps the pinwheel color-and-weave effect and houndstooth twills.  Below are a few weaving drafts to get you started.

4-shaft pinwheel

4-shaft Pinwheel

8-shaft pinwheel

8-shaft Pinwheel


Houndstooth draft

Tessellations are every where . . . so keep an eye out for them.  And, if you end up leaving a man completely and totally bewildered why you found his tie so intriguing, you have my permission to blame me.

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